ESCONDIDO — The Roynon Museum of Earth Science & Paleontology in downtown Escondido opened its doors to the public for the final time on July 6.
A destination for K-12 school field trips for students throughout San Diego County and the public since opening in 2000, the museum was fueled by volunteerism and the indefatigable efforts of its namesake and founder, Keith Roynon. In his early ‘80s, Roynon had spent the past 75 years building up his collection of rare dinosaur artifacts and pieces of the prehistoric geologic record. But Father Time, and the lack of robust financial backing necessitating a staff which was all-volunteer except for one, caught up.
After a last-minute effort to save the museum fell through, Roynon and Museum Director Jeannie Nutter decided to pull the plug. A total of $75,000 per year for five years was needed to keep the museum afloat.
“Of course it tears all of our hearts out that we’re going to lose this museum in Escondido,” said Roynon. “If we could have had a benefactor come in and help us financially keep this going, that would’ve been nice, but that didn’t happen. So, we need to move on with the second best thing, which is to dispose of this museum.”
Nutter said that the Roynon Museum will sell many of its artifacts to the Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center in Riverside, California. Other assets will go up for sale at the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase in early 2020.
Those artifacts include ancient dinosaur eggs, bones, fossils, and other rock formations. Roynon said he felt sadness about having to leave it all behind.
“It’s a very emotional thing to give up 75 years of this, but what must happen, must happen,” said Roynon. “It would’ve been nice to have a benefactor come in and give us a hand. We needed to hire another person, but we weren’t making enough money to hire another person. So, we need to close her down.”
Robert Paolella, a public relations and media strategist, said he, Escondido philanthropist and business owner George Weir and Escondido City Councilman Mike Morasco have kept an open line of communication with Roynon to keep at least some of the artifacts in Escondido.
“The Center for the Arts has been suggested by countless people since it’s such a fitting location,” said Paolella. “Wherever it may sit, I am working to try and get Keith on board with someone who will house it publicly. That’s the best solution for everyone in Escondido to be able to continue to enjoy it.”
Next up on the docket for Roynon will be a chance to fully retire and spend more time with his wife.
“There are times to spend together and now we’re going to spend more time together,” said Roynon, noting that his wife is a retired teacher and both had spent significant time away from home as part of their professional endeavors.
Community members also conveyed a sense of sorrow, as well as pride, about the museum shuttering. One of them is Blanca Jarquin.
“My son is super sad that it was his last time there and he didn’t want to leave the museum,” she wrote in the Facebook Group Escondido Friends. “However, we were able to take tons of pics for my son to keep in his dinosaur photo album. Thank you Mr. Roynon for this amazing place that made a lot of kids like mine happy and taught them about the amazing dinosaur era.”
Roynon concurred, saying the “most important thing” was the lives of children the museum touched.
“The 6,000 children a year that we did run through the museum here, those children are all growing up with great remembrances of our museum,” said Roynon.
Photo Caption: Bones of prehistoric animals on display at the Roynon Museum of Earth Science & Paleontology in Escondido; Photo Credit: Steve Horn
Steve Horn is a San Diego, CA-based reporter covering Escondido and San Marcos. He works in a full-time capacity for The Real News Network, an online broadcast news outlet, covering climate change. He has worked as a staff investigative reporter for the publications Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News and as an investigative reporter for the climate news website DeSmog.com. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.